Gone Girl is terrifying, but I can’t totally tell you what’s so terrifying about it because it’s a spoiler. At first you think it’s one thing, but then when it reveals what it’s really about, it’s way more upsetting than a missing person mystery.
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck)’s wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing the day of their wedding anniversary. As more clues come to light, it starts to look really bad for Nick. Is Amy dead and did Nick actually do it, or did she set him up Double Indemnity (and to a lesser extent Double Jeopardy) style? This is what you’re supposed to think Gone Girl is about so that’s as far as I will go.
And in that first section where Gone Girl is just a traditional mystery, it has a slightly more interesting take on the relationship than the crime. When they met, Nick and Amy were a hot and passionate couple, a loving couple even. After five years of marriage they resent each other, and Nick’s sister (Carrie Coon) always hated her. This shifts our loyalties slightly, but only in superficial ways. Poor Nick had to suffer with this oppressive, belittling shrew. Poor Amy got saddled with this loser.
Ultimately, who cares if two bitter A-holes killed each other or not? It becomes clear that they were each playing a role during their courtship, and reality could never live up to it. This is a common complaint of couples, usually represented by standup comics in terms of “men are like this and women are like that. They’ll never get along!” Maybe everyone has a negative opinion of marriage because they all entered it as a persona. That’s a psychotic view of marriage. How about instead of constructing a persona to “win” someone, try being sincere and see who you actually connect with. (Ladies, I’m available.)
Where it gets really terrifying is that the mystery keeps pressing out all of our gender biases, well beyond just he said/she said. It’s very cleverly interwoven, but it also makes me lose faith in humanity. Is author Gillian Flynn on my side trying to warn me, or is she blaming me and punishing me? If I’m mad at Amy, does that make me a misogynist? Forgiveness is a powerful thing and the characters manipulate it as a tool. Then, when we absolutely should be focusing on something else, the film layers in judgements about weight and appearance, even by sympathetic characters.
There are tidbits about the media in Gone Girl too, judging how Nick carries himself in an impossible situation, superficially making him both a sex symbol and a pariah. That’s all basic Natural Born Killers stuff and it’s ultimately not what the movie is about. It’s another misdirect to lead us to a reflection of our true selves, the judgmental incompatible egos who bring out the worst in each other. Forget what the media does. Look at what we’re doing to ourselves at home!
A lot of Gone Girl is Fincher doing what he knows how to do. A heartbeat sound telegraphs suspense scenes. Or does it? He fades to black a lot, though never lights a scene as dark as Fight Club or Se7en. He’s making viewers complacent so he can shift to the film’s real meat, and it does so with humor, both irony and twisted glee. Pike has a Kathleen Turner vibe going on, a compliment to the portrayal of a woman even more dangerous than a genre femme fatale. I love Coon as Nick’s sister and Affleck is able to elicit sympathy in some pretty unsympathetic moments.
Gone Girl is a warning to phony couples, and it’s presented in an entertaining package. If you think you can fix someone, if you think you can make someone else happy, you will get Gone Girled. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be like this. I enjoy Gone Girl and take heed, but I live in a Gandhi world. I’ll just keep being the change I want to see in the world.